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If you’re gearing up to switch carriers, there’s a good chance you’re trying to leave the big three behind. US Cellular slots in as the fourth-largest US carrier, bringing with it five million customers in over 400 markets. As a network that lies outside of the big three, you may have a number of questions about switching. Keep reading, and we’ll do our best to put your mind at ease.

See also: Best US Cellular deals currently available

We’ll take a look at all of US Cellular’s plans, both pre- and post-paid, as well as important information on which phones you can use. If you’re looking for another way to save, we’ll touch on a major MVNO that uses US Cellular’s network as a part of its service too. Ready to see what happens when you step outside the big three? Let’s get to it.

US Cellular at a glance

US Cellular launched in 1983 as a majority-owned subsidiary of Telephone and Data Systems Inc. Based in Chicago, the carrier has an A-plus Better Business Bureau rating and it’s been an accredited business since 2010. US Cellular does not have a list of resolved complaints, though its customer rating is just above one star.

The carrier’s 4G LTE coverage extends into all 50 states, although its 5G network is limited to areas of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois — regions close to the Chicago headquarters. If you want to check your local coverage you can check the coverage map here.

Post-paid US Cellular plans

US Cellular’s post-paid options are fairly simple — there are just three options, each with distinctive features. You can opt for the easy Basic plan, which covers the fundamentals or spend more for the Everyday and Even Better plans which offer unlimited service. Check out an overview of all three choices here:

 BasicEverydayEven Better
Talk & TextUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Video Streaming480p Standard Definition720p High Definition1080p Full HD
InternationalNone500MB of data
100 minutes of talk
100 texts
Canada and Mexico
1GB of data
200 minutes of talk
200 texts
Canada and Mexico
PaybackNone$5 back if you stay under 3GB$10 back if you stay under 3GB
HotspotNone15GB30GB
Priority DataNone25GB50GB
RedBox Movie NightNone1 free rental per month, per line2 free rentals per month, per line

Basic Plan

As you’d expect from the name, this is the simplest plan you can get. You get unlimited talk, text, and data as well as standard definition (480p) streaming and that’s it. There’s no hotspot option and you won’t get the special RedBox promo that the other plans offer, but US Cellular Basic costs just $55 per month for one line. If you add a second line, each one costs $52.50, three lines drops to $38.33, and four lines cost just $30 each.

Highlights:

  • Lines cost as little as $30
  • Standard definition streaming included

Best for:

  • Users who want talk, text, and data at a low monthly rate

Everyday Plan

This is your best bet for full access to everyday features. Nothing is off limits, even if you don’t get quite as much access as the Even Better plan. For starters, your streaming jumps to 720p HD quality, and you can enjoy 25GB of priority 4G LTE data. Everyday service averages at $10 more per month than Basic, so one line is $65, two are $62.50 each, three cost $48.33, and four lines are just $40 apiece.

The Everyday plan includes 15GB of hotspot access, and it’s a good option if you plan to spend time in either Canada or Mexico. You’ll be able to access 500MB of data as well as 100 minutes of talk and 100 text messages in either of the North American neighbors. This plan introduces US Cellular’s Payback feature, so you can get an extra $5 back on your plan if you stay below 3GB of data.

Highlights:

  • Talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico
  • Payback at $5 per month under 3GB
  • Priority data and hotspot access

Best for:

  • Users who want full access to the US Cellular perks but don’t need much international usage

Even Better Plan

If you want the plan that has it all, this one is your pick because it’s Even Better. That’s the name, and it’s the level of service you get too. Stream your shows in 1080p Full HD, make the most of 30GB of hotspot access, and enjoy 50GB of high-speed LTE data access. Of course, this plan kicks the price up by $10 per line so one line is $75, two are $72.50, three are $58.33, and four lines will cost $50 each.

The even better theme continues with double the international access — 1GB of data, 200 minutes of talk, and 200 texts. If you stay under the 3GB threshold each month, US Cellular will give you a $10 payback each time. It’s the best plan for movie lovers as well thanks to two free RedBox rentals per month, per line.

Highlights:

  • Talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico
  • $10 per month payback under 3GB
  • Two free RedBox rentals per line, per month

Best for:

  • Users who love RedBox rentals, need a bit more international access and can save money with Payback

Post-paid tablet and wearable plans

Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 screen at angle with S Pen 1

You can hook up a tablet or smartwatch with US Cellular at a great rate, but only if you have another line of unlimited service. All you have to do is pay for the amount of monthly data you want, starting with 1GB for $10 per month. Doubling your data to 2GB costs just $5 more, and making the jump to 4GB costs $25. If 4GB isn’t quite enough you can try 10GB for $40 or unlimited service for $90 per month.

To set up your connected tablet plan, head to the button below or log into your account.

Pre-paid US Cellular plans

The US Cellular prepaid options outnumber the post-paid offerings with the addition of a data-free plan. Each plan is aptly named and describes what you’ll get, though the prepaid options offer fewer perks than the post-paid plans. The more lines you add, the more you’ll save as well with a $10 discount on lines two through five. Here are a few more details for each plan:

 Pay As You Go5GBUnlimitedUnlimited Plus
Cost$30$40$55$65
Talk and TextUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Data$0.03 per MB used5GB 4G LTEUnlimited 4G LTE22GB Priority 4G LTE
Unlimited 4G LTE
StreamingNot IncludedNot IncludedStandard Definition 480pStandard Definition 480p
HotspotNot IncludedNot IncludedNot IncludedUnlimited at 1.5Mbps
InternationalNot IncludedNot IncludedNot IncludedUnlimited dialing to Canada and Mexico
RedBox Movie NightNot IncludedNot IncludedNot Included1 rental per month, per line

Unlimited Talk and Text Plan

It may be hard to believe, but not everyone needs unlimited data in 2020. This plan is for those people who don’t really need any data at all. For a base rate of $30 per month, you can get unlimited talk and text, and you’ll only be charged for the data you use. At a rate of $0.03 for 1MB, it’s worth your while to keep the data to a minimum as it comes out to $30 per GB.

There are no other perks with the Unlimited Talk and Text plan, it’s just a simple option for those people who need to call or text and that’s about it.

Highlights:

  • Talk and text as much as you want
  • Add data at a per MB rate

Best for:

  • Users who only plan to talk and text but might need data here and there

5GB Plan

Your next prepaid option from US Cellular offers 5GB of 4G LTE access for $40 per month. If you plan to use anywhere close to even 1GB of that data then this is a better option than the talk and text plan. It may cost more per month, but your wallet will probably thank you for the flat rate.

This plan still doesn’t offer hotspot or streaming quality, but that’s one of the tradeoffs that come with affordable service.

Highlights:

  • 5GB of 4G LTE data without per MB rates
  • Unlimited talk and text

Best for:

  • Users who plan to use more than 300MB of data but don’t need unlimited access

Unlimited Plan

The US Cellular prepaid Unlimited Plan is very similar to the post-paid Basic Plan. For the same $55 starting price, you get unlimited talk, text, and data as well as standard definition streaming. It’s a plan designed for data users who aren’t too fussy about streaming quality and don’t want to worry about limits.

Once again, the plan doesn’t offer hotspot connection or a RedBox promo, but it’s contract-free so you can leave at any time.

Highlights:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Standard Definition (480p) streaming

Best for:

  • Users who want coverage like the Basic post-paid plan without committing to a long-term setup

Unlimited Plus Plan

US Cellular’s Unlimited Plus prepaid plan is as close as you can get to post-paid access, right down to the RedBox promo. You can make the most of 22GB of priority data per month, followed by an unlimited 4G LTE connection. Streaming is still limited to standard definition (480p) but you can rely on a mobile hotspot as much as you want. Unfortunately, it’s limited to 1.5Mbps speeds, but it’s better than nothing.

Unlimited Plus is the only prepaid plan that’s worth your money if you have family or friends in Canada and Mexico. You can dial to each as much as you want at no extra cost. If you’d rather stay in and watch a movie, RedBox Movie Night gives you one free rental per line per month.

Highlights:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Hotspot access at 1.5Mbps speeds
  • One RedBox rental per month

Best for:

  • Users who want unlimited access and hotspot perks without post-paid prices

Which plan is right for you?

us cellular store 2

If you want no-fuss access to everything that US Cellular has to offer, the Everyday plan is the best for most people. It offers great value starting at $65 per month with hotspot, HD streaming, and priority data. The Even Better plan is the best around, but it may be more than you need. The Everyday plan has a Payback option of $5 per month so it’s even more valuable if you can keep your data usage to a minimum.

You can head down the prepaid route, but you’ll probably want at least the Unlimited Plan if you do. Data can get expensive on the talk and text plan, and the 5GB plan is pretty bare-bones. Either Unlimited plan axes the data limit and they both add standard definition streaming. Ultimately, the best plan is whichever one fits your needs.

US Cellular vs the competition

Sprint Verizon T Mobile and Verizon carriers stock photo 3

If you’re considering making the switch, it might help to put the best plans around to a head-to-head test. We’ve stacked the Even Better plan against the top options from the Big Three — Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. You can compare the options in the table below, or check out our Best unlimited data plans in the US list.

 Even Better (US Cellular)Magenta Plus (T-Mobile)Unlimited Elite (AT&T)Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
Cost$75 for one line
$72.50 for two lines
$58.33 for three lines
$50 for four lines
$85 for one line
$70 for two lines
$47 for three lines
$43 for four lines
$85 for one line
$75 for two lines
$60 for three lines
$50 for four lines
$90 for one line
$80 for two lines
$65 for three lines
$55 for four lines
Data50GB of Premium 4G LTE and Unlimited 4G LTEUnlimited 4G LTE100GB of Premium 4G Data75GB of Premium 4G Data and Unlimited 4G LTE
Talk and TextUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Streaming1080p Full HD StreamingHD StreamingHD StreamingHD Streaming
HotspotUnlimited at 1,5Mbps20GB 4G LTE then unlimited 3G30GB of 4G LTE per line30GB of 4G LTE
International1GB Data
200 Minutes of talk
200 Texts
Texting, 2G dataTexting to 120 countriesTexting to 200 countries
Extra Perks$10 per month Payback
2 RedBox rentals per month
Netflix Standard or Quibi
Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi and texting
HBO Max
5G Access
Apple Music
Disney Plus
5G Access

Verizon

If you’ll stop at nothing less than the biggest, fastest, most powerful plan Verizon has to offer, you have to choose Get More Unlimited. From 720p streaming to 75GB of premium 4G data and 30GB of 4G hotspot, Get More Unlimited is the powerhouse of the plans.

Get More Unlimited isn’t just a data beast either, it also adds Apple Music permanently to the mix along with a year of Disney Plus. 500GB of cloud storage is back, as is the half-off tablet offer. As with all plans, you can feel free to text to more than 200 countries too.

Highlights:

  • 75GB of premium 4G data and 30GB of 4G hotspot
  • Apple Music and Disney Plus
  • 5G access with capable devices

T-Mobile

The smallest of the Big Three, T-Mobile has recently completed its merger with Sprint. Magenta Plus is the best post-paid plan you can get, with unlimited talk, text, and data for your money. Plans are all about perks though, and Magenta Plus offers unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi and texting. You’ll be able to access both the 4G LTE and 5G networks without an extra fee.

As far as streaming options go, Magenta Plus comes with HD options and you can choose either Netflix Standard or Quibi. Each line has up to 20GB of 4G LTE hotspot access, although it’ll drop to 3G speeds afterward.

Highlights:

  • Netflix Standard or Quibi included
  • Unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi
  • 5G access and HD streaming

AT&T

America’s second-largest carrier, AT&T, keeps pace with just about everything Verizon can do thanks to the Unlimited Elite plan. All three of AT&T’s options include unlimited talk, text, and data, but only Elite and Extra offer 5G access. No matter which way you go, you’ll be able to text more than 120 countries.

If you’re looking for streaming perks to help guide your decision, Unlimited Elite comes with HBO Max. Unfortunately, only Elite offers this perk so it may be easier to simply sign up for HBO Max depending on your needs. AT&T’s Unlimited Elite also includes 30GB of hotspot per line and high definition streaming.

Highlights:

  • HBO Max with Unlimited Elite
  • 30GB hotspot per line
  • High Definition streaming with stream saver

Want US Cellular’s service on a budget?

If you’re looking for an alternative way to save money on the US Cellular network, you might be ready to give an MVNO a shot. Although the network is a bit smaller than the big three, there’s actually one carrier that uses US Cellular for part of its service — none other than Google Fi.  If you’re familiar with Google Fi then you probably also know that it relies on T-Mobile’s network as well, so it’s more of a hybrid option.

Check out the details right here:

What phones can you use?

iPhone SE 2020 White Rear Camera Apple Logo

Carriers have fewer exclusive devices than ever before, and that plays heavily into US Cellular’s favor. While its plans aren’t miles more affordable than the rest, its phones are available for pretty much unbeatable prices. As long as you qualify, you won’t pay more than $20 per month for any device except for the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. Many, like the LG V60, are available for less than $5 per month.

See also: Best US Cellular phones

Apple’s iPhone 11 is free, and the iPhone SE is just $1.63 per month, which is almost impossible to match on another carrier. You can name the phone, and US Cellular will support it and make it affordable. However, you can also bring a phone with you if you’re so inclined. US Cellular is a CDMA carrier, so it’s a bit limited on what you can bring.  The most important factor in bringing a device is band support. Check the table below for the specifics of the US Cellular setup.

FrequencyBandNetwork Supported
1900MHz23G
1700/2100MHz1
3
4G LTE
850MHz53G
700MHz2
4
5
12
4G LTE

Interested in bringing an unlocked phone to the carrier? Check out our guide to the best Android phones

Frequently asked questions

Q: Can US Cellular use GSM phones?
A: Unfortunately, no. US Cellular is one of the few remaining carriers that is based around the CDMA standard. This means that you’ll have a harder time bringing an unlocked device to the network. Most

Q: How do you unlock a US Cellular phone?
A: Most of US Cellular’s phones are unlocked out of the box, though all iPhones are locked for 120 days after purchase. Once this time passes the iPhone will be automatically unlocked. 

Q: Does US Cellular have Wi-Fi calling?
A: Although it’s been long promised by US Cellular, the carrier has yet to implement Wi-Fi calling support. 

Q: Is US Cellular an MVNO?
A: An MVNO is a carrier that uses another network to provide customers its service. US Cellular operates its own network, so no, it’s not an MVNO. That said, US Cellular has a relatively smaller network and uses partnerships with some of the big carriers to provide free roaming for its customers. In many cases US Cellular will still get service outside of its network, though you might not get full data support while roaming.